A Cardinal on Politics

Father C. John McCloskey reviews Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith by Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith

By Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Our Sunday Visitor, 2011
192 pages, $19.95
To order: osv.com
(800) 348-2440

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has written his first new book since entering the College of Cardinals in 2010. Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith is a timely entry when our culture is challenging the faith in fundamental ways.

Cardinal Wuerl is what we used to refer to in my days on Wall Street as a “big hitter.” Not only does he now head the archdiocese of the nation’s capital, but he arguably has the widest experience of any prelate in the U.S., going back to his time in Rome as secretary to the renowned Cardinal John Wright, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. He is also the author of many books, most importantly in the area of catechetics.

The cardinal divides his book into 19 short chapters based on the concept of Christ’s kingship over the world and our participation in it as we prepare for the “new heaven and the new earth” in the next world. He writes:

“As ambassadors of God’s Kingdom, we need … to be a people of profound respect for the truth. Yes, we have a right to express our thoughts, opinions and positions. Indeed, we who follow Christ are duty bound to speak the truth, but always with charity, always ‘in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). ... We must express that truth with kindness and with true concern for others, so that the bonds between us can be strengthened in building up the body of Christ.”

Cardinal Wuerl’s pastoral work in Rome, Seattle and Pittsburgh has always been characterized by his clarity and reasonableness. Similar to St. Francis de Sales, he seeks to persuade rather than coerce, making the truth attractive and desirable despite its demands.

The cardinal is very clear about the importance of the Church and Blessed John Paul the Great regarding the laity.

Of particular interest in this crucial election year is the chapter on “Politics and the Kingdom,” where Cardinal Wuerl draws on a 2007 document of the American bishops entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” He notes that “the bishops’ conference reaffirmed the value of the document as a clear statement of the principles of Catholic teaching that must be applied by individuals to the issues of the day. The faithful should fulfill their civic duties guided by a Christian conscience, and, thus, every Catholic has an obligation to properly form his or her conscience.”

I was somewhat disappointed that the cardinal did not allude to the penalties in canon law for those Catholics in public office who give scandal by supporting legislation that clearly goes against Catholic teaching. There is no law without sanctions. It is not unlikely in the years ahead, as our cultural and religious conflicts continue, that medicinal canonical penalties will be justly applied.

Cardinal Wuerl hits a home run in this timely book. I look forward someday to reading his autobiography. Few bishops in the world have had such long and distinguished years of service to the Church.

Father C. John McCloskey III
is a research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C.



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